Last month was the 30th anniversary of NBC’s Golden Girls—it also marked the beginning of construction on the Bea Arthur Residence, an 18-bed home for homeless LGBT youth operated by New York’s Ali Forney Center.
Arthur was long a supporter of LGBT rights, especially when it came to young people.
A reported 40% of homeless youth nationwide are LGBT—in New York alone, its estimated there are 20,000 homeless youth under the age of 24.
“These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay or transgender,” she said at a center benefit in 2005, one of her finale public performances.
“This organization really is saving lives.”
When Arthur died in 2009, she bequeathed $300,000 to Ali Forney.
Moved by her generosity, executive Director Carl Siciliano pledged that the first building they owned outright would be named in her memory.
In 2012, the New York City Council and the Manhattan Borough President awarded an additional $3,300,000 for the renovation of a long-vacant building at 222 East 13th Street.
Developers expect to open doors and welcome guests to the Bea Arthur Residence by the end of 2016.
“I am very grateful that we will now be able to honor Bea and continue to keep her compassion alive,” said Siciliano.
Each floor is designed with individual apartments, complete with a kitchen and living room. In addition to a private garden, the ground floor houses a group space, a library named after actress/activist Ally Sheedy, as well as private counseling rooms.
The building will also feature an LGBT Leaders and Legends wall, featuring prominent individuals—including Bea, Keith Haring, Michael Callen, Audrey Lorde, and Silvia Rivera.
But Siciliano wants to make sure residents know about the woman who made it all possible.
“One of Bea’s sons will be sending some of her dresses and other personal affects for us to have on display,” he told NewNowNext. “And we will be applying for a formal proclamation from the Mayor’s Office proclaiming [the day we open] Bea Arthur Day!”
The center’s original space was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Siciliano says the organization “is still reeling from the financial implications.”
Mercifully, Sandy’s impact did not affect development of the Bea Arthur Residence.
“We hope that we will forever be protected under Bea’s watchful eye,” he adds.
And while the focus of Ali Forney is to provide essential services and skills to at-risk LGBT youth, there’s still room for a little Golden Girls love.
“All our icons and gay history are an important part of our work,” says Siciliano. “While we haven’t decided if cheesecake baking will be part of our life skills program, we will most certainly be serving cheesecake on our opening night!”
Save us a slice!